Researchers have uncovered a multitude of new therapies. Consequently, patients are living longer and more comfortably. Research is also on the verge of many effective preventions of cancer.

Promising new treatments and preventions cannot be made widely available to cancer patients until they have been tested and proven to be effective and safe on human beings.  These tests are referred to as clinical trials. In a clinical trial, patients receive treatment and doctors collect information on how this treatment affects the participants.  Each study has rules about who can and cannot participate – such as age, sex or type of cancer.

The Three Phases of Clinical Trials

Phase I Clinical Trials: These trials tend to be highly experimental.  They involve new, untried drugs in types or stages of cancer that have proven resistant to treatment and/or in a small number of patients who have not responded well to treatments.  

Phase II Clinical Trials: These trials often involve new drugs applied to different types of diseases with the goal of determining the areas of greatest effectiveness.  During this phase, patients continue to be monitored closely in order to uncover any unexpected or undesirable side effects.

Phase III Clinical Trials: These trials utilize drugs that have already passed through earlier patient trials and are compared with standard treatments.  Only those treatments felt to be safe, effective and potentially superior to the standard are tested.  

Most insurance companies will cover the cost of participating in a clinical trial as well as the cost of non-experimental cancer treatment plans. Thus, to participate in a clinical trial, it usually is not more expensive than other normal non-experimental cancer treatment plans.